Celebrated Canadian roots, blues and gospel musician, Ken Whiteley, is on his way to The Arts Station and will take the stage on Thursday, April 12.
The seven-time Juno award nominee can’t wait to come back to Fernie, where he has performed twice before. This will be his first solo show in Fernie.
Whiteley has been praised for his songwriting, his versatility as an instrumentalist and powerful vocalist. Through his music, Whiteley communicates the message of freedom, love, spiritual aspiration and social comment. He always performs his shows with a healthy dose of participatory humor, grace and energy.
It’s fair to say that music is in his blood. The 66-year-old has been performing for 52 years, but fell in love with music as a child. Even his son has grown up to become a professional musician.
“I love music, I love performing and I love connecting with people,” he said.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, but it’s really about when that music, and I love the music in and of itself, but being able to make that connection with people, and people of all ages…”
Whiteley loves intimate shows. He loves being able to see everyone he’s playing to. One of the most gratifying things that he experiences is when someone comes up to him after the show and thanks him for turning their day around.
“That’s really what it’s about,” said Whiteley. And after 52 years, that’s what keeps him going.
As much as he loves performing with a large group of musicians, Whiteley always looks forward to a solo show. This gives him the freedom to adapt to the audience and go in whatever direction feels right.
Every night before he goes on stage, Whiteley pours himself a Chinese Tonic Tea, and he’ll bring a second cup on stage with him. He picked up this pre-show ritual at the 1979 Vancouver Folk Festival. Over the years, some of his biggest accomplishments and best memories have been with the people he has worked with. In the 70s, Whiteley worked alongside famed children’s singer songwriter Raffi who, during that period, produced seven of his best selling albums. Whiteley also produced five albums with the adored Fred Penner.
Twenty-three of Whiteley’s albums have been nominated for Junos. In addition, his productions have resulted in 11 Gold or Platinum albums, 22 Juno nominations, two Juno winners and two Grammy nominations, with total sales in excess of eight million copies
In his career, he has been honoured with many awards, including lifetime achievement awards from Folk Music Ontario, things that Whiteley says are very much appreciated. But this isn’t why he does it.
“There’s other things which are intangible wonderfulnesses,” he said. “Playing with Pete Seeger at Massey Hall. That was pretty great. And playing with him again at a 200 seat club in Toronto when he was 89.
“He’s been an inspiration to me for over 50 years, and to see him there almost 90 years old, and still out there, still making new music, still getting people to sing along, and then to be invited up on stage with him. That’s got to be a highlight.”
Whiteley has performed a huge variety of concerts in various locations with many different crowds. At the beginning of every show, he steps onto the stage excited, knowing that it’s going to be unique evening.
“I love to get people to sing with me,” he said. “Often that is facilitated in a more intimate space. In a space like The Arts Station where you can sit on stage and literally look everybody in the audience in the eye, I love that.”
Ken Whiteley will step on stage in Fernie on Thursday, April 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available online at Eventbrite.ca or at the door. $20/adult, $14/youth.